Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Over the last few days, I've written out two or three lengthy posts about the odd disparity in the polls, only to decide after reading them over that they didn't work for some reason and then scrapping them.

There is also a spread in survey data -- surveys never match up precisely. But here we don't have a spread so much as two sets of polls showing two markedly different pictures of the race. One shows the race dead even or with a small Bush lead; another shows the president running a commanding margin of roughly ten points.

In the last few days the pattern has repeated itself with Gallup and CBS/NYT showing roughly a ten point race and Harris and Pew showing it roughly dead even.

This sort of clustering can't be explained by margins of error -- not after it shows up so repeatedly. It can only be explained by different organizations using quite distinct polling models. Recently, Ruy Teixeira has been arguing, pretty convincingly I think, that Gallup numbers are skewed because they include a substantially higher percentage of Republicans than have shown up to vote in the last several presidential elections.

As Ruy notes this evening, the Gallup data show independents favoring Kerry by 7 points, while the overall numbers have him down by 8 points (these are Gallups registered voters numbers.) That's hard to figure since in recent history self-identified Democrats always outnumber self-identified Republicans.

(See this post here for a more detailed explanation of Ruy's argument. In fact, for all questions like these on the innards of polls I recommend Ruy's blog.)

So, as I say, I think Ruy's pretty convincing on Gallup.

But it's not just Gallup. It's also CBS/NYT and, if their last poll is any measure, ABC/WaPo as well.

I assume that these other surveys are using models similar to Gallup's -- and I'd like to see analyses of the internals of these other polls to show if that's the case. Still, I'm not willing to dismiss all these big Bush lead polls too easily.

What Dems should take from this is that there are a slew of polling organizations that say this race is basically a tie and buck up their morale accordingly. On the broader question of what's going on here, count me as still puzzled and, needless to say, it's a debate I'd much rather be having on the other side of the 50 yard line.

Bush on Iraq: Who you gonna believe? Me, or your lyin' eyes?

We're helping the Iraqi people build a new democracy.

Pessimists can say what they want. But that's what they said about the occupation of Germany and Japan.

We're safer with Saddam in prison; America is safer. The critics are pessimists.

These aren't quotations. But phrases like these are the stock phrases of the president and the rest of his campaign. They filled the recent Republican convention in New York. Actually, on Thursday President Bush was speaking in exactly this vein: "Freedom is on the march."

But as yesterday's piece in the Times made clear, that's exactly the opposite of what the government -- or rather the people in the government paid to analyze these things --- actually believes. A new and still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq says that the best case scenario for the country over the next eighteen months is drift, along more or less the lines that it's at right now. The worst case scenario is all-out civil war. The middle ground is spiralling extremism and fragmentation -- basically a continuation of the evolution, or rather devolution, we've seen over the last year.

There have been a raft of new findings over the last week or so which dramatize or confirm this finding. But the truth is we don't really need anyone to tell us this.

It's always possible to posit 'optimism' up until the point when the whole place actually erupts spontaneously into hellfire. But to any thinking individual it's clear and it's been clear for some time that our whole enterprise in Iraq is going extremely poorly, by pretty much every concievable measure.

And yet the president just says none of this is true. Things are going well. Yes, things are difficult, he says. But we're on the right track and things keep getting better. Dan Bartlett today said that Democrats are just showing their pessimism: "President Bush gets his briefings from commanders on the ground. He has reason for his optimism because of the enormous amount of progress we have made."

The president is simply in denial. Or he's willing to keep burning through the US Army and the Marine Corps to avoid admitting the failure of his policies or even the obvious fact that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating terribly.

Today another suicide bomber just exploded himself in Baghdad killing at least a dozen people. The country is continuing the slide into chaos and violence. President Bush says we're on the the right track. Freedom is on the march.

Words and excuses meet incompetence, chaos and death. That's what this election is about.

It's amazing how lack of evidence spawns speculation. I found any number of emails today in my in-box speculating on the connection between the 'fan mail' I posted on Wednesday and the lack of new posts since then.


Angry and unwilling to post ever again?

Please, people. Have you ever heard of Jews? We've been celebrating the New Year. Posts will resume presently.

Fan mail ...

For a long time. TPM <$NoAd$>was even my home page. I thought you an honest and truthful guy. Boy was I wrong.

So how much are the dipshits paying you? Naturally I don't expect an answer. Even if you did reply you'd kill the golden goose.

"The word is out and about now that the CBS Bush National Guard memos are not forgeries but rather recreations of actual documents authored by Lt. Col. Killian.

That theory gains credence from the fact that Killian's secretary has now said that though she believes these memos are not real that their contents reflect real documents that once existed in Killian's personal file -- ones she herself typed.

There's a word, though, for these sorts of recreations, if that's what they are: forgeries."

Those grafs fail so many tests of integrity and journalistic ethics that I can only conclude they come straight from the WH or the RNC, not that it matters which.

You truly had me fooled Josh. I expect to see fulsome praise of the Pres in upcoming days for his valiant TANG service so all of us Americans can be as proud of him as he is and you are.

Steven B.

Whenever I get interviewed about blogs I'm always asked whether I think blogs will replace the conventional media or whether they're in competition with it. The question always strikes me as ridiculous since most of what blogs do feeds off of newspaper coverage -- either criticizing coverage, expanding on coverage, running with stories that aren't getting much attention and so forth.

That's not to say blogs aren't important, only that they're in a synergistic or interdependent relationship with the conventional media. That means newspapers and even more the investigative journalism done by newspapers and magazines.

Along those lines, The Washington Monthly is doing a subscription/pledge/fundraising drive this week. As you know, the Monthly now hosts Kevin Drum's 'Political Animal' blog. So contributing will help support Kevin's blog, albeit perhaps indirectly.

(Disclosure: I'm a contributing writer for the Monthly.)

But the best reason to contribute and to subscribe to the Monthly is to support the sort of extremely labor- and expense-intensive reporting that the Monthly does best and on a monthly basis. The list of articles they've put out in the last couple years is just phenomenal -- on Bush's addiction to polling, on Bill Bennett's love of games of chance, on the Neocon plan for Iraq before the first shots were fired. The list goes on and on.

These are pieces that help us really understand what's going on in the country. They take hundreds of hours to put together. It's very hard for them ever to pay in commercial terms. And blogs will almost never fill that role. So stop by the Monthly website and hear their pitch.

Some other presidents, who never served in the Guard, who President Bush calls fellow National <$NoAd$>Guardsmen ...

Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president ...

Ohio governor William Dennison appointed him as a major in the Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Hayes eventually rose to the rank of major general during the war and was wounded several times. Because of his military service, Ohio Republicans decided that he was the perfect candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1864. Hayes resisted the nomination, purportedly stating, "an officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer ... ought to be scalped." In spite of his opposition, Hayes still won the election. He resigned his military commission on June 9, 1865, to assume his position in Congress.

James A. Garfield, 20th president ...

He took command of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Gen. Don Carlos Buell assigned Garfield the task of driving the Confederate forces out of Eastern Kentucky in November, 1861. He was given the 18th Brigade for the campaign. In December, he departed Catlettsburg, Kentucky with the 40th and 42nd Ohio Infantries, the 14th and 22nd Kentucky Infantries, along with the 2nd (West) Virginia Cavalry and McLoughlin's Squadron of Cavalry. The march was uneventful until reaching Paintsville, Kentucky, where his cavalry engaged the Confederate cavalry at Jenny's Creek on Jan. 6th, 1862. The Confederate withdrew to the forks of Middle Creek, two miles from Prestonsburg, Kentucky on the road to Virginia. Garfield attacked on Jan. 9th. At the end of the day's fighting, the Confederates withdrew from the field. Garfield did not pursue them. He ordered a withdraw to Prestonsburg so he could resupply his men. His victory brought early recognition to him.

He was transferred in April to the west in time to participate in the Battle of Shiloh. He also fought at Chickamuaga, eventually reaching the rank of major general.

Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president ...

Harrison sat out the first part of the Civil War, but then was commissioned colonel and commanded the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, which he created in 1862 at the request of Governor Oliver P. Morton. In Kentucky Harrison's raw recruits helped fight an invasion by Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Harrison's unit was later transferred to the army of General William Tecumseh Sherman, and in 1864, Harrison and his men fought in the bloody Atlanta campaign. At the Peach Tree Creek engagement he won praise for gallant conduct.

Harrison went home on furlough in 1864 to campaign against pro-Southern Democrats in Indiana. He was reelected supreme court reporter, and later rejoined his regiment in the Carolinas. He left the army with the rank of brigadier general.

If Kerry had said something similar, would we be hearing about it?

A follow up on the history of presidents and the National Guard.

A reader writes in to note that Harry Truman's service in the Guard was very much like that from the 19th Century (see this post from this morning for an explanation.) And in fact Truman reentered the Guard as a way to get into World War I. He even, rather quixotically, tried to get back in for World War II.

As Truman's bio at the Truman presidential library says ...

From 1905 to 1911, Truman served in the Missouri National Guard. At the outbreak of World War I, he helped organize the 2nd Regiment of Missouri Field Artillery, which was quickly called into Federal service as the 129th Field Artillery and sent to France. Truman was promoted to Captain and given command of the regiment's Battery D. He and his unit saw action in the Vosges, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. Truman joined the reserves after the war, rising eventually to the rank of colonel. He sought to return to active duty at the outbreak of World War II, but Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall declined his offer to serve.

If the <$Ad$>question is, how many presidents served in the National Guard? The real answer is, I believe, three -- including President Bush. If the question is how many served in the modern, post-19th century Guard, the question is basically one -- President Bush.

If the question is how many presidents entered the Guard in wartime to avoid combat, the answer is clearly one -- President Bush.

Here, though, there is one president in a roughly similar position. That was Grover Cleveland -- the 22nd and 24th president of the United States -- who paid for a substitute to take his place (yes, that was legal) after he was drafted during the Civil War.

The word is out and about now that the CBS Bush National Guard memos are not forgeries but rather recreations of actual documents authored by Lt. Col. Killian.

That theory gains credence from the fact that Killian's secretary has now said that though she believes these memos are not real that their contents reflect real documents that once existed in Killian's personal file -- ones she herself typed.

There's a word, though, for these sorts of recreations, if that's what they are: forgeries.

There's no sense or possibility of getting around that.

The late news that two of CBS's own experts had questions about the authenticity of these documents is really all you need to know to see that this piece never should have run as it did. At a minimum, when the original story ran, CBS should have shared with viewers the questions their own experts were apparently raising about the documents' authenticity.

In his speech yesterday to the National Guard Association of the United States President Bush said that he was proud to be one of 19 presidents to have served in the Guard. This struck one of my readers as a tad fishy. And when he dropped me a line about it, my reaction was the same.

There have, after all, been 43 presidents of the United States. So almost half, according to the president are Guard veterans. Who knew?

Actually, it's even more striking because President Bush is one of only two presidents who served in the Guard during the 20th century. (Harry Truman served in the Missouri National Guard from 1905-1911 and then again in World War I.)

So what's the deal? Why were the 19th and 18th centuries so rich in Guard-serving presidents?

Basically the president was using what amounts to a historical trick.

He's including the individual state militias, which before the 20th century fought most of America's wars, as the National Guard.

So, for instance, Thomas Jefferson, who briefly commanded a regiment in the Virginia militia. He was in the National Guard.

Almost all the presidents from the latter part of the 19th century who fought in the Civil War? National Guard vets.

By this definition pretty much everyone -- with the exception of some career officers -- who served under arms for the US from the Revolution through the end of the 19th century would count as a Guard veteran.

The president didn't come up with the number 19 out of whole cloth. The National Guard Association of the United States for instance speaks of the 19 presidents "who served in the Guard or its forerunner, the organized militia." President left off that little detail.

Ironically, the manning of the Iraq War represents a move back toward this older model -- with extensive use of state Guard units to bulk up the core of the national, full-time military.